A real-life, multi-channel customer journey
Yes, they do actually exist! Here’s the proof
For those of you who work in marketing or the agency world, the term Multi-Channel Customer Journey will be a familiar one. You may also know that providing a customer experience that enhances the brand’s values, delivers engaging content to customers, in the channels they use, online or offline, is incredibly hard to achieve — or certainly do well.
You’ll also be familiar with Customer Journey Maps, which illustrate the path across all touch points and how they affect the customers’ feelings towards the brand and drive the next action. In the perfect world this journey ends in a purchase. In an even better world, a great post-purchase experience triggers repeat purchases and, ultimately, ongoing loyalty.
In theory, developing customer journeys is a great way of understanding the needs and desires of different target personas and how they might influence the best channels of communication. This process is certainly valid and helps unpick what can be a confusing landscape, whilst adding clarity to a marketing plan.
In practice however, I wonder how many customers actually experience this journey in its completion. Often their real-life experiences are more disjointed, spread over a long period of time with content drip-fed until the point of purchase.
Customers live hectic lives, with family, work pressures and thousands of other brands all competing for their attention. This results in a marketer’s mapped-out journeys breaking down, and the customers themselves never aware that they have experienced a pre-planned series of communications.
There’s no doubt that a coherent marketing plan works and helps drives sales when delivered well. There is enough data at a marketer’s disposal to understand the results of individual campaigns and how effective they are. What’s less easy to know, is how the combination of marketing activities worked together over a longer period of time to influence sales.
A question of attribution
It’s easy to attribute an online sale to an email campaign that links to an e-commerce site and subsequent sale in the same browsing session. Or a retargeting ad, triggered by a previous browse that ends in a sale.
What’s less easy to understand is how these touchpoints influence a purchase when the customer receives and views marketing content but doesn’t take any action. If they later take a decision to buy the product via a web search, then in many cases the search action will be attributed to the sale with little consideration for the marketing campaigns that influenced the active evaluation phase of the purchase cycle.
Below is the McKinsey Loyalty Loop, which explains in simple terms the consumer’s decision journey. Often the brand’s marketing touchpoints are mapped to this diagram so they can see what comms are going out during what phase and their overarching goal — brand build versus direct response and sales etc.
None of this actually matters providing the individual campaigns are leaving a positive impression that ultimately ends in a purchase. It’s an unrealistic marketer who believes that each persona group is going to experience the campaigns exactly as mapped out in a Customer Journey. Or that each customer is conscious of all the touchpoints they interact with and how they have been influenced by each one.
My real life customer journey
It’s with all of this in mind that I was recently stopped in my tracks when I realised I had been an active and conscious participant in a multi-channel, content and marketing customer journey, which resulted in a purchase and great brand experience.
The brand in question is Jason Markk. They offer premium sneaker cleaning products sold from their online store and with flagship stores in London’s Carnaby Street and Los Angeles.
Now, I don’t consider myself a sneaker head, and certainly don’t own an expensive collection of limited edition footwear that might necessitate or justify premium cleaning products. I did however decide one day that I am going through too many pairs of sneakers and that it might be more sensible to do a better job of looking after the pairs I have, rather than constantly replacing them.
It was at this point my journey with Jason Markk started…
Touch 1 — Mr Porter YouTube Video
I am a subscriber to the Mr Porter YouTube videos and recalled watching a video on sneaker cleaning in the past. I decided to go back and watch this video again and see how it’s done by the experts. In this video the presenter uses Jason Markk products to clean the sneakers. This forms my first connection with the brand and is the start of the awareness stage.
Touch 2 — Jason Markk YouTube Video
Having watched the Mr Porter video my interest in the Jason Markk brand is piqued, so I quickly search YouTube for Jason Markk and find their own set of videos on sneaker cleaning using their range. This is my first impression of the brand beyond just the products.
What is clear from the presenters (which include Jason Markk himself), is that they take cleaning shoes very seriously, focusing on the how different materials react to moisture and how their products are designed to accommodate the needs of any type of shoe.
The presenters themselves are cool and trendy, and not necessarily who you might associate with a passion for cleaning products. That said, their style makes you feel they know their sneakers and gives you a level of trust that they know how to look after them.
The products themselves are well packaged too, with a modern design that fits the overall feel of the brand.
Touch 3 — Instagram Retargeting
A few days passed, with me just getting on with everyday life and forgetting about my first forays into the sneaker cleaning world. I‘m an engaged Instagram user and use it to promote my personal passion for landscape photography (shameless plug: danclarkephotography). A few days later, whilst browsing my feed, I noticed I’d been retargeted by Jason Markk with an advert for their cedar shoe inserts.
I have a habit of saving any ads I receive that interest me, putting them into my Instagram bookmarks for future reference. Given this ad was relevant and topical to me, I save this advert too.
Touch 4 — Link through to Jason Markk website
Having saved the advert in my Instagram bookmarks I went back to it a day later when I was online at home on my laptop. I clicked through to their website to have a more detailed look at their products and pricing.
Again, my engagement was only brief and I spent a couple of minutes browsing before wondering if the products were available in any stores near me in London.
Touch 5 — Google Search
A quick Google search showed that Jason Markk products were being sold on the Size UK website. I work near the Carnaby Street branch of Size and walk past it everyday on my way home, so decided to pop in to see if they sold it in the physical store.
Touch 6— Physical Store Visit
That evening I walked down Carnaby Street and noticed a doorway I had never noticed before, right next to the Size shoe shop. I popped into the store and found that not only does Jason Markk sell their own products, but also had a cleaning crew who you could leave your sneakers with and they would clean them and bring them back to close-to-new condition.
I decided to buy a couple of cleaning products and headed to catch my train home. This was where my journey with Jason Markk ended.
It was on this journey home that I reflected on my discovery of Jason Markk. I had gone from online discovery of a previously unknown brand based in Los Angeles, through to a sale in their only other physical store worldwide (and just five minutes from my office), in just six steps. To top this off, it all happened in a relatively short space of time and in a manner that I, as an experience designer, was conscious of, so could connect all of the dots along the journey.
All this brings me back to that question of attribution and customer journey mapping. Someone somewhere may well have had journeys mapped out containing various Jason Markk digital campaigns and comms, but I bet my bottom dollar none of them looked like mine. And I bet that when the marketing agency look at the success of their campaigns that influenced my journey, none of them will be attributed to my sale in a physical store in Carnaby Street.
So, as a parting message to the Jason Markk marketing team/person out there. Your customers may never follow the exact journeys you mapped out on a wall. And you may never fully know the contribution each touchpoint has on a customer’s decision to purchase. But trust me, each interaction with the brand leaves an impression, and makes a contribution to whether a customer continues their journey or abandons… even if it you can’t directly see it in your campaign performance figures.